Rankings: Best and Worst of Vince Vaughn

I like Vince Vaughn. He’s a Chicago man (Cubs fan) and there’s no one I’d rather listen to complain. Few people are actually funny when they rant or complain, and Vince Vaughn is one of them.

Then again, Vince is one of those comedians who have gotten stale lately. It started with Fred Claus back in 2007 – though some people would insist it was The Break-Up, I’m going to say good Vince, not so good movie – he hasn’t really found positive spotlight since then.

I think he’s funny and he still has the capability of being funny. But he’s been the same funny for a long time now. Almost no one can stand Will Ferrell anymore and he’s been the same funny through it all with the exception of Stranger than Fiction. These guys need other outlets for their talent. They need someone to cast them in roles that will eliminate any possibility of relying on the same characterization.

Friday’s Couples Retreat is a step back for Vaughn. The TV spots end with him rambling about staying calm when he’s in the water with sharks. That is same old Vince, which is not what he needs. He needs to keep going the route he started by taking small parts in Into the Wild and Thumbsucker: something more laid back and less frenetic than couples therapy movies.

In the spirit of Vaughn needing a big boost to his career, I thought I would rank the five best and worst Vince Vaughn roles of all time based on his performance and with only a little influence from the quality of the overall movie. From here we might understand what types of roles Vince needs to be at the top of his game.

5 Worst Vince Vaughn Roles

5. The Break-Up – Gary Grobowski

Vince wasn’t bad in this movie so much as the movie was off. I wouldn’t say I hated The Break-Up, but calling it “off” is the best way to describe it. It sold itself as traditional break-up comedy and tried to be profound relationship drama for the last half hour. Vaughn has some absolute classic rants – some of his best material – but his character Gary, a couch potato and insensitive boyfriend is just kind of a shmuck in this movie, so in turn, it’s his least worst movie on my list.

4. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy – Wes Mantooth

Hilarious movie, yes, but Vaughn’s character, rival TV anchor Wes Mantooth was pretty awful. I’ll blame the writing for not giving him anything to work with other than “I hate you, Ron Burgundy, I hate you” and “Dorothy Mantooth is a saint!” (if he didn’t improvise at least one of those lines). Mantooth was one of those hollow, shallow, pointless movie villains, though Vaughn definitely benefited from increased exposure in such a high-profile comedy.

3. Psycho – Norman Bates

Vaughn’s lucky that accepting the role in Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of this absolute classic didn’t destroy his career. You’d have to be crazy to think that this would be a good career move – to try to equal or top the performance of Anthony Perkins as one of the most strangely terrifying antagonists of all time in Norman Bates. It’s one thing to be bad and it’s another to be just okay and draw comparisons to a fantastic original. This was more the choice to be in the film than the performance itself. No reason anyone should put that kind of pressure on himself.

2. Four Christmases – Brad

Vaughn’s second attempt at a Christmas movie was at least short and PG-13. Still not ideal work for Vince and certainly all about the cash, but Vince was certainly not terrible in it. Part of the film’s negative critical response, however, has to be attributed to his audience wearing out his role of guy in a non-committed dysfunctional relationship with a likable Hollywood actress.

1. Fred Claus – Fred Claus

When you’re as big of an actor as Vince Vaughn and you’ve made a name for yourself doing R-rated comedy, why do PG? Fred Claus had to have been about the money for Vince. This was intended to be star-studded Christmas fare with a main character that adults would be happily entertained by while their kids got the Christmas movie fix. I didn’t see the film after hearing how mediocre (and long) it was, but everything I’ve read proves the jerk loser character Vaughn always plays didn’t work PG or at the least had gotten annoying by this point. Vaughn should have seen the critics’ responses as time to re-evaluate his direction.

5 Best Vince Vaughn Roles

5. Thumbsucker – Mr. Geary

Vaughn dons a sweater vest and plays a high school teacher and debate club advisor in Thumbsucker, an indie growing-up/family drama. Although his performance didn’t blow me away, I was pleased with the results of him taking on the more dramatic role of the teacher who tries to push the main character toward achieving his goals. Channeling his star power into something simple worked for me, even if it wasn’t Vaughn doing what he does best.

4. Swingers – Trent

Without Swingers, we would have the Vince Vaughn we have today. Ridiculous outfit and wife-beater aside, we got a good taste of Vaughn’s potential in this film. The film is not really an all-out comedy, so the role is tamer than most, but it features Vince in a supporting role of a friend with some bad life advice … and a tendency to rant. Clearly a career-estbalishing role.

3. Dodgeball – Peter La Fleur

The concept of Vaughn in Dodgeball was excellent, albeit sophomoric. Surround a guy that’s really good at making fun of other people with a cast of complete nut jobs. Vaughn plays the troubled but still sane manager of a local gym called Average Joe’s and enters a bunch of his wacko clients along with himself into a dodgeball tournament to make the money he needs to save his gym from being taken over by competitor Globogym. Making Vaughn seem normal in comparison made Peter one of the most likable characters he’s ever played. His job is to sit there and react and occasionally deliver an inspirational speech. It only lets him express one side of his talent, but it doesn’t get annoying like some of his other roles.

2. Wedding Crashers – Jeremy Grey

The combination of an angry, complaining, stubborn Vaughn who loves lying to women in order to get laid with a softer and sorry son of a bitch like Owen Wilson was comedic gold. Vaughn is both victim of craziness (Isla Fisher’s character won’t stay away from him, neither can her brother Todd) and he does a fair amount of ranting, his best rants of all time really. It doesn’t get better in terms of Vaughn’s star vehicles and it might not ever again.

I think the reason it worked well for him, other than being both victim and rant perpetrator, is that his character was a con artist, intentionally a not so great person. The more normal he’s supposed to be, the more him ranting doesn’t work (hence why he never really ranted in Dodgeball). It’s not exactly what most leading men are like in films, but it’s what Vaughn needs to get favorable reviews.

1. Old School – Beanie Campbell

An unfaithful trash-talking audio equipment salesman with a kid: You can’t argue with Old School being the perfect role for Vaughn. A supporting role who gives bad advice and really helps push along the plot of the film in hysterical ways is not something you can argue with. I remember seeing this movie not knowing who Vaughn was and thinking he was one of the funniest guys I’d never heard of.

“Earmuffs” is something that just about everyone includes in their vocabulary. It’s fantastic. You replace “put your hands over your ears because Daddy doesn’t want you to hear this” with one word, an object that can be visualized easily, “earmuffs.” Then you follow it up with a man cursing obnoxiously in front of his child and saying questionable things about women. It’s been a long time since we saw Vaughn in this type of supporting role and if he can get there again, all the Vince Vaughn fans in this world will stop hiding in embarrassment.


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